Wild-Avalanche Preview

The Colorado Avalanche inched closer to climbing into the

Western Conference playoff picture with a road win over

injury-depleted Minnesota Wild over the weekend.

While the Avalanche have struggled in this series on their own

ice of late, they’re surely feeling good about pulling off a

home-and-home sweep Tuesday night given the Wild’s recent offensive

woes.

Colorado tries for just its second win in nine home meetings

with Minnesota, which looks to snap a four-game skid and avoid

getting shut out for the fourth time in five games.

Coming off back-to-back home losses, the Avalanche (34-29-4)

regrouped with Sunday’s 2-0 win at Minnesota (28-28-10). Recently

acquired Jamie McGinn scored both goals in the opening 8:25, and

Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves.

“This is huge. After dropping two we knew we needed these two

points,” said McGinn after his first career two-goal game.

“Everyone ahead of us is winning right now, so we have to stay in

the hunt. It’s going to be an interesting final stretch here, and

we want to be a part of it too.”

The Avalanche are 10th in the West, just one point behind San

Jose for the eighth and final playoff berth. Though Colorado has

gone 1-6-1 over its last eight home matchups with Minnesota, this

may be the ideal time to face its struggling division rival.

Dealing with injuries to captain Mikko Koivu (shoulder) and

fellow forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Guillaume

Latendresse (concussion), Minnesota has managed just four goals

during an 0-3-1 losing streak – including three shutouts.

“We’ve used that excuse already – injuries, injuries, injuries,”

right winger Devin Setoguchi said. “If the effort’s there then we

can be satisfied if we lose the game or if we play hard, but if the

effort’s not there and the mentality isn’t there to play the game

right – even with all the injuries – then that’s not an excuse win

or lose.”

The Wild have allowed at least two goals in the first period of

each game during their skid.

“I have to find a way to make sure we’re ready to go at the drop

of the puck the next game,” coach Mike Yeo said. ” … I think it’s

more between the ears than it is the ability of a player.”

Minnesota has never been blanked in three consecutive games in

franchise history. The most recent team to suffer

back-to-back-to-back shutouts was Montreal last March 22-26.

With Niklas Backstrom (strained groin) out for at least another

two weeks and backup Josh Harding getting rest after allowing all

six goals during Friday’s 6-0 loss at Detroit, rookie Matt Hackett

made 24 saves Sunday.

Harding, however, could be back in this one. While he hasn’t

faced the Avalanche since the end of the 2009-10 season, Harding is

3-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average during his last four starts

in this series. In his last visit to the Pepsi Center, Harding

stopped all 29 shots in a 1-0 win Jan. 28, 2010.

Varlamov has given up a combined three goals in winning all

three lifetime matchups against the Wild. He is 4-1-0 with two

shutouts and a 0.80 GAA over his last five contests overall.

“He’s been very solid for us lately here, and we’re going to

need that type of play down the stretch,” coach Joe Sacco said.

Colorado’s Steve Downie is questionable after sitting out Sunday

with a shoulder injury. He has seven points in six games since

being acquired from Tampa Bay before the trade deadline.